An Illinois lawmaker is looking to impose an outright ban on the sale and possession of kratom, an herbal supplement that some advocates say can be used to treat pain and addiction.
House Bill 4106, filed Oct. 17 by state Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, would amend Illinois’ Kratom Control Act, which currently prohibits the sale of kratom to minors, by expanding its scope to include adults.
Possession of kratom by minors, as well as the sale of the substance to them, is punishable as a Class B misdemeanor under current law, the violation of which can earn offenders a minimum fine of $500 and a maximum of $1,500. Conviction of a Class B misdemeanor in Illinois can result in up to six months in jail. If implemented, these potential Class B penalties would apply across the board.
Illinois law defines kratom as “any parts of the plant Mitragyna speciosa, whether growing or not, and any compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of that plant.”
Passage of HB 4106 would make Illinois one of seven states with a statewide ban on kratom, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. The other six states with a wholesale ban on the substance are Alabama, Vermont, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Indiana and Arkansas. Washington, D.C., also bans kratom.
At the federal level, the Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA, had issued an emergency notice in August 2016 announcing that it would move to reclassify kratom as a Schedule I narcotic, the most severe classification recognized by the agency and the same classification given to drugs such as heroin and LSD. However, the DEA withdrew this consideration two months later.
Unfortunately, what Stuart seems to have failed to consider is that by banning kratom across the board, HB 4106 will pluck the substance from the regulated market and move it underground, inviting the potential for unintended consequences of increased danger.
Stuart’s preoccupation with recreational kratom use is emblematic of a broader issue concerning state policies that consume the time and resources of authorities that would be better spent elsewhere. A heavy-handed approach toward criminal justice has translated into needlessly squandered public funds.
In a state experiencing major fiscal problems, spending scarce public safety resources in an attempt to rid Illinois of a substance that is legal in a vast majority of states is misguided.
Illinois has made a number of laudable strides in recent years toward advancing civil liberties and encouraging a more just – and cost-effective – use of authorities’ time and energy. The General Assembly has passed and Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed into law a number of positive criminal justice reform measures over the last few years.
Illinois would be wise to proceed on this reform-minded path. A statewide ban on a substance the vast majority of states recognize as legal would be a step in the wrong direction.